Category Archives: Dodge

2012 Dodge Journey Crew SUV (926)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2012 Dodge Journey Crew SUV. You know, years ago, just like the junk that came out of Japan, Mexico wasn’t the first choice for any product either. Ok, so Sarape’s, Leather Sandals and Wrought Iron stuff and oh yea, upholstery were things you might consider buying from south of the boarder of California. As young teens we’d go across toMexico to go surfing, snorkeling and visit the shops on the main drag of Tijuana, and some even went to the houses of ill repute. Some of us got close but were able to avoid the pitfalls of stupid youth. Perhaps avoiding meant we were ‘chicken’ . . . thankfully.

Well, Surprise! – today Japan produces first class stuff and the world auto industry has moved much of its production to Mexico including many car makers. Toyota has a large plant in Tacate,next to Tijuana and Dodge, VW and other car companies have chosen Mexico for assembling their cars. Even Daimler Trucks moved its Freightliner manufacturing from Portland, Oregon to Mexico. Go figure.

General Information:

Parts content – US/ Canadian 36%, Mexico 55%; Engine – Mexico, Transmission – USA. It is assembled in Toluca, Mexico. Classification is SUV. Cars from Dodge: Avenger, Caliber, Challenger, Charger, Durango, Grand Caravan, Journey, Nitro and Viper.

Handling & Performance:

Powerful V6 that is responsive and quick. Great size SUV for easy handling around town while providing seating for 7.

Styling:

Average in appearance. This is a segment of the market that is so popular that most will not stray too far from current accepted designs that are selling. But as the name designation implies it is a sport UTILITY vehicle where practicality is the most important reason for its popularity.

Fit and Finish:

Very good. I get excited about how well Chrysler products are put together in today’s world. I used to drive mom’s Chrysler when I was a teenager. In those days it was commonly known the brand literally would fall apart. That is simply not true today as the company has survived the early days when most cars (the big three is all there was then) were thrown together haphazardly. Ford and GM were a cut above. Fortunately for Chrysler that hasn’t been true for many years now. But like all car makers who have evolved, the improvement comes from advances in technology. But in the case of Chrysler, the influence of Daimler Mercedes was hugely positive in the transformation that took the company beyond just better. Daimler left its mark forever.

And of course you can’t say all of that without recognizing Lee Iacocca’s influence in 1979 when he became CEO.

Cost:

The 2012 Dodge Journey is offered in five trim levels: American Value Package (AVP), SE, SXT, Crew and R/T. The new Journey AVP is offered at a starting U.S. MSRP of $18,995 or with 7-passenger seating at $19,990. Black leather with red accent stitching is standard on R/T. A Rear Seat Video Group with second-row DVD player, 9-inch video screen and six premium speakers is available on Crew and R/T.

Conveniences and comfort:

Comfortable seating for 7 in a midsized SUV. The seats fold down nicely for adding additional cargo space when needed.

No one should talk on a cell phone without hands free capability. One measure of this feature in today’s cars and trucks is how easy it is to set up, and that it connects automatically when you get into the car. This was easy to set up and use.

Visors are well designed and sturdy and block the glare perfectly. I also appreciated the large screen display for Nav and back up camera.

Consumer Recommendation:

Consumer reviews seem to agree that this Dodge Journey is worthy of your consideration. In my week of testing I agree with those consumer opinions and it is competitively priced in this 4- wheel drive configured list of SUV’s. This is a tough field to pick just one. . . but then you don’t have to stay married forever if you don’t like it any longer. But I guarantee you will find little to complain about (especially during the honeymoon years).

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Journey $28,000, Ford Edge $33,000, Honda Crosstour $35,000, Nissan Murano $32,000, Toyota Highlander $31,000, Chevrolet Equinox $29,000, Mazda CX-7 $34,000, Ford Escape $27,000, Honda Pilot $38,000, Hyundai Veracruz $30,000, Jeep Liberty $28,000, Kia Sportage $25,000, Mitsubishi Endeavor $34,000, Nissan Xterra $28,000, Subaru Outback $28,000, Subaru Tribeca $31,000, Toyota RAV-4 $26,000, Toyota Venza $31,000, Volkswagen Tiguan $32,000.

Good News:

Well priced in class, huge list of standard equipment, good fuel economy for a 7 seat SUV.

Bad News:

None.

Standard Equipment:

3.6 liter V-6 283 horsepower engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, front side and side curtain airbags all rows, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, traction control, remote start, cruise control, Electronic stability control, remote go with proximity keyless entry, security alarm, climate control, 6-way power driver seat, tilt & telescopic steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, power windows & locks, passenger fold flat front seat, 2nd row 60/40 split fold down seats with under seat storage, rear reclining folding seats for 7 seating, Sirius XM satellite radio with 6 Infinity speakers with subwoofers / 368 watt amplifier, Uconnect voice command Bluetooth, 12V front and rear outlets, 115 V Aux power outlet, tire pressure monitor, 19” painted aluminum wheels, fog lights, heated power mirrors and auto headlights.

Gas Stats:

$3.89/ Gal avg. June 11, 2012
www.fueleconomy.gov
For more information.

17 City and Highway 25 MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $28,495.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2012 – An Automotive Love Affair

2011 Dodge Durango Crew RWD Crewlux (875)

Overview: 

This week we’re looking at the 2011 Dodge Durango Crewlux SUV. Son Mike could use this 8 passenger van. Mike is on his way to filling every seat. Number 5 is on the way and I’m sure Utah’s finest are thrilled. It’s what they do in old country, USA. Congratulations. Once the 7tharrives Mike may need to move up to a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter that seats 12. The bad news is that a Sprinter with seats will cost $45,000 so he may need a second job or a couple more wives to pay for it. We won’t follow the logic on that.

General Info: 

Parts:  US/Canadian – 69% including the Engine & Transmission. It is assembled in Detroit, Michigan, USA. Class is SUV. Cars from Dodge include:  Avenger, Caliber, Challenger, Charger, Durango, Grand Caravan, Journey, Nitro & Viper.

Opinion: 

…And speaking of my son’s growing family (In Utah), at first blush it seems out of touch with the “New World Order (Society)” of hope and change. In a society that demands politically correct and to do as the government dictates, this large vehicle is violating those dictates, some would say. Hogwash, say I. As long as we remain free it is our duty to do as Nature Dictates and not as high fashion Culture Coordinating Government says, as it meddles in the affairs of Mother Nature.

For you greenies and tree huggers who still have Al Gore bumper stickers, the large vehicles son Mike uses for his family makes the most sense, (assuming large families make sense to begin with).The brand and model is supported by those who can do simple math and know instinctively that hauling around a lot of folks means doing it in one vehicle, not two or more.

Mao Tse Tung would roll over in his grave and say he dictated “Only One Child” per family. Well for Mao that was a necessity since they didn’t have cars in China, let alone SUV’s that seat 8 people. Seriously though, at well over a billion people in China, it was necessary to do something! But once again, fooling with Mother Nature was poorly thought out. The culture in China discarded the girls so there is an imbalance and too many males. Now they have too many men and not enough women. Who’d a thunk! Obviously Mao did not, or didn’t think it a bad thing.

Handling & Performance:

Wonderful, large SUV. Large means convenience for the higher fuel consumption. But that is where it is interesting since the MPG of this Durango is exactly the same last week’s Mercedes-Benz E550 sport coupe. That Benz is lucky to seat 4. Have I made my case Obama?

Styling:

Nice appearance even if it resembles an FBI or other Government security vehicle used for diplomats and politicians and other better people than we – the real people.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Good price to benefit ratio if you need a high capacity passenger vehicle, but if you intend to use it as a commuter it is expensive.

Conveniences and comfort:

For the money there is a huge list of standard features that are really nice. There are a couple of high tech options I would add and suggest you consider them as well for $1,195 – “Adaptive Cruise Control/ forward collision warning and “Blind Spot and Rear Cross Path Detection”. These are extremely helpful and the best of recent improvements to available features.

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Durango $33,000, Acura MDX $43,000, Buick Enclave $36,000, Cadillac SRX $35,000, Chevrolet Traverse $38,000, Ford Edge $31,000, Ford Explorer $28,000, GMC Acadia $32,000, Honda Pilot $28,000, Hyundai Veracruz $28,000, Infiniti FX $43,000, Jeep Grand Cherokee $30,000, Mazda CX9 $29,000, Nissan Murano $29,000, Sabaru Tribeca $30,000, Toyota Highlander $36,000.

Good News:

It seats 8 and still gets 23mpg, great looking and super comfy with great features available.

Bad News:

None noted.

Standard Equipment:

3.6 liter 290 HP V6 engine,  5-speed auto trans, front, side and side curtain airbags, LATCH – ready child anchor system, electronic stability control, rear park assist, keyless enter and GO, remote start, hill start assist, trailer sway damping, security alarm, cruise control, climate control, rear A/C with heater, power windows and locks, 8-way power driver seat & 6-way passenger seat that folds flat, power 4-way lumber front seats, second row 60/40 reclining fold and tumble seat, third row 50/50 folding seat, third row remote fold down seat, 3- 12 V and one 115 V outlet, SIRIUS satellite radio, media center CD/DVD/MP3/HDD touch screen radio, Bluetooth streaming audio with 9 speakers, USB Port, tilt & telescopic leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, 18” Painted aluminum wheels, Power liftgate, fog lights, roof rails with stowable cross bars, halogen headlights, power heated signal o/s mirrors and deep tint sunscreen glass.

Gas Stats:

$3.65/ Gal avg. July 11, 2011

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

16 City and 23 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $33,195.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2011 – An Automotive Love Affair

2011 Dodge Ram 2500 Laramie Crew Cab Long Wheel Base 4X4 (840)

Overview: 

This week we’re looking at the 2011 Dodge Ram 2500 Laramie Crew Cab Long Wheel Base 4X4. This is one big truck. It barely fits under my car port. It reminds me of my friend Norm who is too tall for any bed, which gives me an idea – I could park it corner to corner… that might work. I’ll let you know.They tell me size doesn’t matter. But you know, it really does… know what I mean.
Well, anyway, I’m sure there are people who can put the size to good use but it is a pain to take it places where the size is inconvenient – like going shopping, running to the store for a quart of milk and eggs… that kind of thing. This Ram means Business and it is right at home on the range where the buffalo roam and there is lots of room to turn around. Speak of a bull in a china closet…

Handling & Performance:

I’d be surprised if you weren’t impressed with how fast and smooth a ride this Laramie delivers. I was totally blown away. Before I knew it, as I entered the freeway and looked at the speedometer, I was doing 90 and I swear officer I could have bet my lunch that I wasn’t doing over 67 and a half miles per hour. I backed off and thought – if only I were in Wyoming, or Montana, or some other Big Sky Western State. But no, I was in California, the western version of New – York – City! Here, in California, you used to be able to sing “Oh Give me land, lots of land under starry skys above… don’t fence me in…”. God those were the days.

And thanks to this Laramie I’m reminded of those simpler times. But the good news is that I don’t have to hitch up the horses to the wagon to get things move’n. I’ll bet you could haul two tons of hay in this big fella.

It just about made me forget my youthful days when we’d refer to things made in Mexico as put together with bail’n wire and chew’n gum. Old habits and opinions are hard to shake. Those were the days when ‘Made in Mexico’ was about as bad as ‘Made in China’. Surely it serves a lot of good in that it keeps the cost down and well if that ain’t re-distribution of American Wealth I don’t know what is.

Now don’t get me wrong, I got nuth’n a-genst out-surs-en. Hell we could even get back to doing our own farm’n and pick’n right here in the old US of A again like we used to.

Well will ya look-e here – I been a rambling on … sorry I just couldn’t help myself.

Styling:

This is a pretty plain Jane look but the frills are definitely in there. It’s pretty, like the girl next door. Come to think of it her name was Jane too and I’m appreciating this Laramie all the more.

Fit and Finish:

Actually the attention to detail is quite good, which I find almost unimportant in a work truck like this class of truck. Beverly Hills applications are rare because that ‘ilk’ would simply get somebody else to do the heavy lifting and if they wanted to appear like real people they would pick up a Cadillac Escalade and not a work truck.

Cost:

Consider this observation. You would hardly bat an eye if I were a contractor and pulled up to give you an estimate in a $54,000 truck, but you can bet if I pulled up in a $54,000 Mercedes Benz you’d give the job to someone else. Perception my friends, perception.

Cost is also relative in another way. Consider the cost of an 18 wheeler brand spank’n new is under $100,000. And as an aside, it is sad that in today’s market you can buy that big rig used for about $20,000. Why, because there ain’t no shovel ready work bro. Speaking of bro’s, brother John has three trucks just a sittin ‘cause there isn’t a damn thing going on in construction. I don’t know about you but I’m ready for real change.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you’re employed or have a small business that needs a truck buy it this year and take advantage of 179 tax code property where you can write off up to $250,000 in the first year. The vehicle must be 6,000 lbs or greater, which this Dodge Ram is.

I thought a little tax advice wouldn’t hurt… especially since the all knowing present federal government administration in its infinite wisdom will get rid of such tax incentives next year. I miss ya George, and Ronnie Baby – Especially Ronnie even more than Nancy does.

Conveniences and comfort:

All of ‘em you need and more you don’t need.

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Ram 2500 $23-29,000, Chevrolet Silverado $38-49,000, Ford F-250 Super Duty $47-62,000, GMC Sierra 2500 HD $28-34,000.

Good News:

Fast and smooth, the quietest diesel you’ll ever drive, a work horse and if used in business Uncle Sam will pay a good chunk of the price (in the form of less tax on your income), and with a low gear and torque that will pull a house.

Bad News:

A little pricey – unless of course you use it in business.

Standard Equipment:

5.7 liter inline 383 horsepower V8 engine, 6-speed manual transmission, front and front and rear side curtain airbags, 35 gal tank, tire pressure monitor, heavy duty cooling, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, remote keyless entry, theft deterrent & security alarm, cruise control, power windows and locks, auto headlights, power mirrors, park assist sensors, electric shift on the fly 4X4, auto dual zone air conditioning, Media center with 506W Alpine radio with CD, DVD, HDD and SIRIUS satellite and 9-speakers, power 10-way driver and 6-way passenger heated seats, heated steering wheel with audio controls, 40/20/40 split bench seat, rear 60/40 split folding seat, 12 volt power outlet with Uconnect with voice command and 115 Volt Aux power outlet, rear power sliding window. 


Options included on this test vehicle:

6.7 liter Inline 6 Cummins Turbo Diesel Engine, 9600 pound GVW, diesel exhaust brake, tow hooks, upgraded media center, GPS Navigation system with SIRIUS traffic, Chrome tubular side steps, rear backup camera, integrated trailer brake controller, spray in bedliner, rear seat Video System and SIRIUS TV.

Gas Stats:

$2.99/ Gal avg. November 15, 2010

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

City and Highway MPG

Data not available, but that is deductible this year as well.

Pricing:

MSRP $42,650 with options $53,430.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2011 – An Automotive Love Affair

2010 Dodge Avenger R/T (813)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2010 Dodge Avenger R/T. Avenger was introduced in 1995 and replaced the Daytona. Today Avenger gets its looks from its sibling muscle cars – Charger and Challenger. For many the trip down memory lane of muscle cars is filled with images of their ‘good old days’. Those were the experimental days that made today’s cars what they are. In those ‘good old days’ most all cars were little more than buckets of bolts and gear heads relished the experiences of just keeping them running so they could look cool cruising. That was how guys had ‘fun’ in the 1950s and 1960s.

I suspect that’s why Chrysler has done so well with ‘Retro’ cars today. When I first test drove the revisited Challenger for 2008 people nearly strained their necks doing double takes as we passed on the road. But it wasn’t the old guys but the young ‘dudes’ who surprised me most with their interest. That’s why these are special cars – there is something about them that is timeless. But you know what – they just get better and you don’t have to worry about keeping them running. But when it comes to being able to relive those days we owe Chrysler a debt of gratitude for having the huevo’s to bring them back.

General Info:

Parts –  US/Canadian – 85%

Assembly – Sterling Heights, MI, USA

Class:  – Midsize Cars

Cars: – Avenger, Caliber, Challenger, Charger, Dakota, Durango, Durango Hybrid, Grand Caravan, Journey, Nitro, Ram 15,25 & 3500, Sprinter Van & Wagon and Viper.

Horsepower:

We all rely on Horsepower as a way to identify power relative to other cars on the road. Muscle cars of old that this Chrysler Avenger reminds me of defines our love for power and influence.

The technical description of horsepower is:

As the term implies it relates to how much work a horse can do over time. So it has stuck as a measure of what machines can do relative to the horse. SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) standardized how it is calculated about a hundred years ago and unless the stated horsepower is certified by the SAE, you can’t place much trust in the accuracy of the number.

DIN horsepower is the German standard.  The conditions of the test vary slightly, but the required equipment on the engine and the point of measurement (flywheel) remains the same. Because the test conditions are so similar, it is safe to divide DIN horsepower by 1.0139 to arrive at SAE net. This value is so close to equal that for all but the most technical purposes DIN and SAE net are interchangeable. 

General Motors was the first manufacturer to certify an engine’s power and torque ratings using a newly adopted SAEstandard (J2723), James Queen, GM Vice President, Global Engineering, announced during his keynote address at the SAE World Congress and Exhibition in April 2005. The world’s largest automaker said it planed to certify all of its engines to the voluntary standard, and is encouraging its competitors to do the same.

At the end of the day, no matter how they calculate it, we know what fast is and what isn’t just by driving the car and pushing the pedal to the metal, as they say. That validation is pretty easy and when you drive a Corvette Z06 or newer you pretty much know that is as fast as you need to go to get your heart started. Me – I almost always do a 0-60 test and if you get there in 4-5 seconds you believe the horsepower rating or rather you really don’t care how real the number is.

Wanna race for pinks?

Handling & Performance:

Parochial. Handles well but it will leave you feeling it is underpowered. Another engine option is not available.

Styling:

Improved a lot since it was introduced in ’95.

Fit and Finish:

Good.

Cost:

Top of the heap in price point that will attract a lot of buyers.

Conveniences and comfort:

Quite good.

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Avenger $20-22,000, Chevrolet Malibu $22-27,000, Ford Fusion $20-28,000, Honda Accord $21-31,000, Hyundai Sonata$19-25,000, Kia Optima $18-23,000, Mazda 6 $19-29,000, Mercury Milan $22-28,000, Mitsubishi Galant $22-24,000, Nissan Altima $20-30,000, Saturn Aura $23-27,000, Subaru Legacy $20-30,000, Suzuki Kizashi $19-27,000, Toyota Camry $20-29,000 and Volkswagen Jetta $19-25,000.

Good News:

Very well priced in class.

Bad News:

Poor rating among most reviewers who say power is sluggish and JD Powers says reliability rating is ‘mediocre’.

Standard Equipment:

2.4 liter 173 horsepower Inline 4-cylinder engine, 4-speed automatic transmission, front side and side curtain airbags, LATCH system child safety, rear door child protection locks, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, remote keyless entry, theft deterrent system, security alarm, cruise control, tire pressure monitoring, power door locks, air conditioning, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, 8-way driver heated power seat, front passenger fold forward flat seat, 60/40 folding rear seat, audio with CD/DVD/MP3 & SIRIUS satellite radio – 6 speakers, power windows, fog lights and power heated mirrors / manual fold away.

Gas Stats:

$3.00/ Gal avg. May 23 ‘10

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

21 City and 30 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $21,730.

2010 Dodge Challenger SE (810)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2010 Dodge Challenger SE 2-door coupe that is super popular. It simply looks great and although the V6 won’t burn up the road you can opt for the R/T with a 5.7 liter 372 horsepower V8 engine or the SRT8 with a 6.1 liter 425 horsepower V8 engine.

General Info:

Parts –  US/Canadian – 70% – Mexico 16%

Assembly – Brampton, Ontario, Canada

Class:  – Compact Cars

Cars: – Avenger, Caliber, Challenger, Charger, Dakota, Durango, Durango Hybrid, Grand Caravan, Journey, Nitro, Ram 15,25 & 3500, Sprinter Van & Wagon and Viper.

Opinion:

If you drive CA-14 as I do I’ll bet you find the need to dodge potholes. It’s very distracting and dangerous. I have a suggestion for our friends in government. Cut county jobs by 10% and Cal Trans could fill all the potholes from here to the moon. Cut State jobs by 10% and we could balance the budget and fill all the potholes to Mars.

What’s more insulting is that recent reports show that we pay salaries to those employed in government jobs one and a half times those salaries paid to those in productive jobs. You know, the ones that produce real GNP.

Meanwhile, in spite of the imbalance of salaries, we still have the potholes.

Handling & Performance:

Nothing special but all good.

Styling:

Retro and nearly perfect. It is perhaps my favorite of the Chrysler flashback cars that I never owned. My favorite of favorites back then was the 1957 Chevrolet 2-door hardtop but driving this Challenger brings back lots of good memories. It must also do the same for lots of other folks because it always gets the looks. It is simply a timeless styling standout.

Fit and Finish:

Chrysler quality is an obvious and the best transformation from old to present day production for this car maker. Good job guys. And that observation is from me and I was not a supporter in years past. Mom owned Chrysler car so they couldn’t be all that bad I guess.

Cost:

Chrysler cars and trucks are generally very good values. Competition is very close in class grouping.

Conveniences and comfort:

Everything you need, but if you want to upgrade and add Nav, upgrade in paint, leather, special wheels and upgraded audio you’ll need to pop for about $9,000 more.

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Challenger $23-41,000, Chevrolet Camaro $23-34,000, Ford Mustang $22-38,000, Ford Shelby GT500 $49-54,000, Hyundai Genesis Coupe $36-40,000, Infiniti G Convertible $44-47,000, Infiniti G Coupe Mazda RX8 $27-32,000, Nissan Z $30-41,000, Pontiac G6 $19-32,000.

Good News:

Special retro styling, value pricing.

Bad News:

Only fair fuel economy that is little better than the big V8 models.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 250 horsepower V6 engine, 5-speed automatic transmission, front side and side curtain airbags, Electronic Stability program, traction control, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, touring suspension, remote keyless entry and sentry key theft deterrent system cruise control, tire pressure monitoring, speed sensitive power door locks, air conditioning, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, power windows, power 8-way driver seat, 60/40 folding rear seat, audio with CD/MP3 4 speakers and fold away power mirrors.

Gas Stats:

$3.03/ Gal avg. May 11 ‘10

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

17 City and 25 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $22,735 (with options on test vehicle – $31,400).

2010 Dodge Charger RT (809)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2010 Dodge Charger RT Rear Wheel Drive 4-door sedan. Dick reminded me how 4-door cars are not like the 4-doors of the distant past where they just weren’t ‘cool’ looking. Remember those days? That was when only your parents would buy a 4-door. Well, that isn’t true today. In fact although in my youth I always bought two door cars, today I’m finding little resistance from young buyers to today’s 4-door models. Two door designs are just too limiting and add little to ‘cool’.

The next most common comment I get is “oh that’s one of those muscle cars”! But not said negatively. No, it is always meant as a good thing. People simply have a reverence for the sound and symbol of ‘raw muscle’. It’s easy for a guy to fall in love with the iconic ‘muscle’ look because it adds to his macho image. Kinda like a chick in a Jeep Wrangler with the wind blowing her long blonde locks. It is clearly a turn on ‘image’ of excitement in living. It paints a picture of active living people you’d like to know.

I can’t say enough about the all too brief ownership and influence Daimler – Benz had on Chrysler products. I haven’t noticed a change from the many improvements built into this product since the new owners took over. I trust they will maintain the improved quality evident from years past when quality wasn’t all that good at Chrysler.

General Info:

Parts –  US/Canadian – 79%; Engine – Mexico; Transmission – US.

Assembly – Brampton, Ontario, Canada

Class:  – Large Cars

Cars: – Avenger, Caliber, Challenger, Charger, Dakota, Durango, Durango Hybrid, Grand Caravan, Journey, Nitro, Ram 15,25 & 3500, Sprinter Van & Wagon and Viper.

Opinion:

Will these guys ever get the message? I pass by a CHP office every day to and from the office and on a recent day I happened to notice a huge blue sign with yellow lettering “NOW HIRING” and phone number, etc… you gotta wonder! While companies are laying off productive workers the IRS and CHP are hiring. What’s that all about? Do we have money to “BURN” in California? Don’t they realize we’ve already burned through everything and we are broke by most accounts. Get it yet?

Handling & Performance:

The base model comes with a 2.7 liter 178 hp V6 engine then it moves to a 3.5 liter 250 hp V6 to this RT with the 5.7 liter 368 hp V8 and finally the SRT8 is the 6.1 liter 425 hp V8.

In addition to power, another important design feature includes the Touring Suspension that makes this car handle well while delivering comfort for the long road trips. It reminds me of the days I watched newspaper partner and international race driver, Price Cobb, do his magic on the race track. I watched him test the track performance and give adjustments to the mechanics to fine tune the suspension settings on Steve Saleen and Tim Allen Mustangs used in their race team. It makes a big difference in handling and will determine winners from losers in high performance operation.

Somewhere in the middle of comfort and performance is where most passengers should be. This Charger has been pretty well fine tuned.

The result is an instant feel of a solid ride and a confident driving experience. It means less drift and therefore is less tiring on those commutes home from the office after a hard day. I enjoyed the ride.

Styling:

Retro and as Kramer would say, “I’m lov’n it”. For me the Challenger is a notch up in Retro design and it is my favorite, but Charger is very nice.

It is important to me and I believe it is important to many others that designers are thoughtful and consider how people actually use their car. Example: Visors. I am instantly turned off when the visor doesn’t include an extension feature. Either a pull out or that the whole visor moves to block the whole side window from glaring sunlight. Well, that doesn’t seem like a big thing but you shouldn’t have to pay luxury car prices to get that convenience.

Fit and Finish:

Since the Daimler Benz days the quality continues to impress me and I hope they don’t lose the touch they were given by those days of ownership. I haven’t seen any difference yet and you have to admire the spunk Chrysler has had as it fought for its life beginning with the “Real Bailout” engineered by Lee Iacocca.

Cost:

Competitive or better than all in class.

Conveniences and comfort:

If you want to be reminded about how efficiently you are driving Dodge has included an ECO gauge to signal you with a subtle ‘fuel saver indicator’ light. This technology has been around a long time but has become more popular in direct proportion with the price of gas.

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Charger $24-38,000, Acura TL $35-43,000, Buick Lucerne $29-43,000, Cadillac CTS $35-61,000, Chevrolet Malibu $22-27,000, Chrysler 300 $27-45,000, Ford Taurus $25-38,000, Honda Accord $21-31,000, Hyundai Azera $25-30,000, Mazda 6 $19-29,000, Nissan Maxima $30-33,000, Pontiac G8 $28-38,000, Toyota Camry $20-29,000.

Good News:

Well built, comfortable solid ride, decent fuel economy in class.

Bad News:

Nothing I can think of!

Standard Equipment:

5.7 liter 368 horsepower HEMI V8 engine, 5-speed automatic transmission, front side and side curtain airbags, child upper seat tether anchors, rear door child safety locks, power rack and pinion steering, dual exhaust, touring suspension, 4-wheel ABS performance disc brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, speed sensitive power door locks, Sentry Key theft deterrent system, keyless entry, power adjustable pedals, air filtering, tire pressure monitoring, dual zone climate control, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, power windows, heated front seats, 60/40 folding rear seat, audio with CD/MP3 & SIRIUS satellite service (1-year included) and 6-Boston acoustics speakers.

Gas Stats:

$3.01/ Gal avg. May 1 ‘10

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

16 City and 25 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $31,370 (with preferred options on test vehicle – $39,995).

2010 Dodge RAM 1500 Laramie Crew 4X4 (793)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2010 Dodge RAM 1500 Laramie Crew 4X4. Yep, a Chrysler product and it would appear we have observed the third resurrection of this troubled American car maker. From a brief engagement with Daimler, Chrysler has emerged a better car company whose products have come a long way as a result of that brief affair.

New for the 2010 Dodge Ram 1500 is an increased towing capacity to 10,450 and increased gross combined weight rating to 15,500 lbs. when equipped with the 5.7-liter engine, 140.5-inch wheelbase and 3.92 rear axle. All engines include an interactive Decel Fuel Shut Off to allow shut off of fuel flow during deceleration for improved fuel economy. New features also include available folding trailer mirrors, integrated trailer-brake controller, power trailer-tow mirrors and 22-inch wheels for R/T. Inside: the Ram adds passive head restraints, a fuel-saver indicator on the instrument panel of the 3.7-liter engine configuration. That is old technology but an effective way to be reminded you of how badly you are doing with fuel consumption. I guess it doesn’t matter with the 5.7 liter HEMI engine. A premium tire-pressure monitoring system is also becoming more popular. Personally I have found them to be annoyingly unreliable as they give false warnings primarily on those cold mornings. The new park-assist indicator in the electronic vehicle information center is on the other hand one of the more useful additions. A new iPod Control connects most iPod-compatible devices and allows iPod devices to be controlled through the media center audio system or the steering-wheel radio controls.

General Info:

Parts – US/Canadian 76%. Engine-Mexico, Transmission-US.

Assembly – Warren, Michigan, USA

Class:  – Standard Pickup

Cars: – Caliber, Challenger, Charger, Dakota, Durango, Durango Hybrid, Grand Caravan, Journey, Magnum, Nitro, Ram 15-25-3500, Sprinter, Sprinter Wagon & Viper.

Opinion:

Fly or Drive – that is the question. Well, with the incompetence of the TSA and our government generally, I’ve changed my opinion of the 500 mile rule. I think I’ll push that up (for me) to 1,000 miles. For me that is the distance between Los Angeles, CA and Portland, Oregon. Here’s how I compute that logic. If driving alone you save $400 round trip air fare vs. $150 in gas. If I fly it takes 7 hours and the indignity of undressing with total strangers. The drive takes 14-15 hours. (A full body scan would piss me off just enough to seal the deal to drive.)

And finally, the clincher is if there are two or more traveling together. Then you multiply the $400 by the number of travelers for air fare but all the rest is the same for the drive except you can share the driving duties and go straight through. That’s a winner and no worries about the Muslim terrorists. Glenn reminds me that “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists today are Muslims”.

Handling & Performance:

Chrysler’s Dodge trucks are arguably the best trucks on the market anywhere in the world. Hard working people count on a hard working truck. My choice many years ago was the Dodge 3500 dual wheel diesel (Cummins) powered work horse. Now after 265,000 trouble free miles I still count on it when I need to do the heavy lifting.

Styling:

Unmistakably Dodge with an image of being tough in its look and feel. It just gets better every year.

Fit and Finish:

Big, bulky, heavy, solid and fit together as well and close as a truck dares to.

Cost:

A bit more expensive than I think is appropriate because I know how profitable trucks are for the manufacturer. Ok, so it’s competitive with similar size and quality trucks.

But to put it all into perspective the truth is the price of today’s pickup trucks is about ½ the cost of an 18 wheel semi truck. Why is that? When I toured the Daimler truck plant in Oregon last month I got a healthy appreciation for comparable values, which I discussed in a previous column.

Conveniences and comfort:

Very good, and a really solid comfortable ride.

Consumer Recommendation:

All listed players are very nice trucks but you know my bias because I own a Dodge Ram. Tom in my office will only own Ford. Fortunately for you it’s an easy evaluation process because you only have to test drive 7 makes.

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Ram 1500 $21-43,000, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 $21-42,000, Ford F150 $21-39,000, GMC Sierra 1500 $21-46,000, Honda Ridgeline $28-37,000, Nissan Titan $29-39,000, Toyota Tundra $23-42,000.

Good News:

Competitively priced, a top contender for me.

Bad News:

Only fair fuel economy.

Standard Equipment:

5.7 liter 390 hp V8 HEMI engine, 5-speed automatic transmission, electric shift on demand transfer case, front and rear side curtain air bags, stability control, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, HD engine cooling, remote keyless entry and remote starting, security alarm, rear park sensor assist system, power locks, tire pressure monitor, air conditioning with dual zone temp control, Media center CD/DVD/MP3 radio with 6.5” Touch screen & 30 GB hard drive , Sirius satellite radio, 506 Watt Alpine surround w/ 9 speakers and sub-woofer, steering wheel mounted controls, Uconnect phone with voice command, heated front heated seats with lumbar adjust 40/20/40 split bench seat and rear 60/40 split fold down seat, leather wrapped heated steering wheel, rear power sliding window, power memory 10 way driver and 6-way passenger seats, memory for radio, driver seat, mirrors and pedals, trip computer, temp and compass gauges, 20” aluminum wheels.

Gas Stats:

$2.99/ Gal avg. January 9 ‘10

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

13 City and 18 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $42,650.

2009 Dodge Ram 3500 Quad Cab Big Horn Edition SLT 4X2 pick up truck (776)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2009 Dodge Ram 3500 Quad Cab SLT 4X2 Big Horn Edition pick up truck. Wow… my first truck was a Chevy ½ ton pick up. Life was simpler then I think.

Well what can I say about my favorite pick up… this is a very handsome truck with the convenience of a full size cab and the quality of a Cummins Diesel engine. Brother John is a mechanic, trucker, and all around do it all kinda guy and I trust his judgment. . . a lot. When John found an 18 wheel dump truck for me to buy it had to be a Peterbilt with a Cummins Diesel. Ok, so that personal preference but truckers talk and I suspect there is a lot of agreement in those circles.

My own Ram 3500 has a Cummins with 260,000 uninterupted service miles of driving and hard work. John tells me Cummins diesels routinely get over a million miles before rebuilding is necessary. But like our government if he told me often enough it would get a Billion or even a Trillion I would believe that too. Hey, John wouldn’t lie to me……….. would he? If he ran for congress I might change my opinion… speaking of opinion…

General Info:

Parts –  US/Canadian 53%, Mexico 18%

Assembly – Saltillo, Mexico.

Class:  – Heavy Duty Vehicle

Cars: – Caliber, Challenger, Charger, Dakota, Durango, Durango Hybrid, Grand Caravan, Journey, Magnum, Nitro, Ram 15-25-3500, Sprinter, Sprinter Wagon & Viper.

Opinion:

Here is one persons thought to improve travel on our highways. “Have you noticed the flashing electric signs on the freeway that tell you it is 14 minutes to some point of travel? Well, to Cal Trans or any other road Czars I might suggest that flashing the average speed between those points would be more informative. Then folks could set their cruise control at that speed and everyone would get to their destination more safely and in the same amount of time. No more rabbit starts and screeching stops and that means fewer accidents and less traffic jams. That simple information would help us to know what the traffic picture is like up ahead.”

What’s your thought or idea on how our driving experience could be improved?

Handling & Performance:

Well, what can I say, this is a truck and I should expect to wear a kidney belt when driving on the freeway cement without a load. And I shouldn’t really try to talk on my (hands free) cell phone either. If you’ve been there, done that you know what I mean.

Styling:

It has been the king of the road for most of the past in truck history and that which exudes confidence that this truck can get the job done.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

In this class of work horse all are close even if a little pricey for what they deliver.

Conveniences and comfort:

For this kind of vehicle I would opt for a back up sensor because although visibility is quite good when empty, it is not with a load.

On the whole we know trucks have evolved to be more like luxury passenger vehicles than work trucks and this Ram is no exception. They are so well equipped they cost more  than I like to pay for a work vehicle. In a very short period of time all that beautiful stuff is trashed anyway, so I’d opt to pay much less and get the basics. However, that being said trucks today are hot and fewer are actually used for real serious work. I can just imagine the boss asking the guys to sit in the bed so they won’t dirty the seats.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you are a Ford guy test the GM and Chrysler offerings and visa versa. You may find a change is in your future.

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Ram 3500 $36-51,000, GMC Sierra 3500 HD $31-44,000, Ford F450 Super Duty $42-54,000, Chevrolet Silverado 3500 HD $31-44,000, Ford F-350 Super Duty $26-42,000.

Good News:

Great styling, tough work vehicle, comfortable cab appointments, powerful and long life Cummins engine.

Bad News:

35 gal fuel tank (because you need it).

Standard Equipment:

6.7 liter Cummins Turbo Diesel 350 hp engine, 6 speed automatic transmission, 35 gal fuel tank, anti spin differential rear axle, heavy duty engine cooling, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, diesel exhaust brake, rear power sliding window, tinted glass, remote keyless entry, sentry key / theft deterrent system, cruise control, power windows and locks, power rack & pinion steering, front stabilizer bar, 750 amp maintenance free battery, air conditioning, tilt steering col, stereo with CD player, Sirius satellite radio, 40/20/40 split bench seat, rear folding seat, stain repellant fabric, rear under seat storage compartment, Overhead console with trip computer.

Gas Stats:

$2.85/ Gal avg. September 4, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

n/a City and n/a Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $42,365.

2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Crew Cab SLT 4X2 pick up truck (775)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Crew Cab SLT 4X2 short bed quad cab pick up truck. This truck is one of nine in class and for my money it is equal to the task of competing but is no longer among the American made trucks until recent years were the unquestioned absolute king of trucks.

That’s a fact but that being said if you know my column you know I drive a Dodge Ram 3500 dual wheel Cummins powered one ton pickup truck. My other truck is a 1985 Chevrolet Silverado and my 775th vehicle is this Ram 1500.

So I tend to lean toward them even though one of my favorite trucks was my 1955 Ford half ton that was my 3rd ownership right behind a 1946 Chevy pickup that followed my first which was a 1934 Chevy coupe with a rumble seat. You know the scene of young kids with their first car – taking it to school with all the other hoodlum friends hanging out of the rumble seat and the ring leader in the front seat yelling – “Stop, there’s Bab’s” or some such other craziness. Thank God we didn’t kill anyone.

Well I can’t help but be impressed with the new offerings from Chrysler because I’ve tested all those listed below. But at the end of the day I know full well your choice will have more to do with your personal preferences and leanings than what mine are or what I have to say. Me, I could see owning any of those listed here.

General Info:

Parts –  US/Canadian 53%, Mexico 18%

Assembly – Warren, MI, USA.

Class:  – Standard Pickups

Cars: – Caliber, Challenger, Charger, Dakota, Durango, Durango Hybrid, Grand Caravan, Journey, Magnum, Nitro, Ram 15-25-3500, Sprinter, Sprinter Wagon & Viper.

Handling & Performance:

Well, what can I say – it is HEMI powered and I love great performance and innovated technology embodied in the HEMI engine design. It is a 4X2 so it won’t take you off road very far but it has better fuel economy than those dragging around all that added weight.

Styling:

Always a leader. The Japanese have copied the toughness of all American Trucks and the most notable to me is the Nissan Armada. The Japanese car makers share the market and rightfully so. They have applied their great work ethic just as they have with passenger cars.

This bad boy seats 6 comfortably and is well appointed. It has a solid, well assembled and that heavy feel but it is light and nimble on its feet as well.

Fit and Finish:

Very good. In fact as I’ve said before it’s almost too much opulence and carlike for a working truck. So let’s face it, marketing found that most buyers will not want this truck for hauling manure alone. I observe that most people are gentlemen farmers and ranchers who are more interested in comfort.

Cost:

Competitive. It’s a toss up and there is no price advantage to any of them. Trucks are among the most profitable vehicles and I believe they need not be so pricey. But then again they are much more utilitarian than alternative transportation options. And for the ranch most of us living in rural lives know these are necessities not luxuries.

Conveniences and comfort:

All the comforts of home away from home. The only uncomfortable time is driving the freeway without a load. It will flat shake your eye teeth out and give you a sense that you need a kidney belt.

Consumer Recommendation:

Pick your favorite but there are only 6 brands to test and you might be surprised a change is in order with no sacrifice of performance. For example although I have always owned trucks from the big three as is the case with most of us, I like the Honda and Toyota trucks also. They’re the relatively new kids on the block and worth a look see. Then buy one of the others.

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Ram 1500 $22-44,000, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 $19-41,000, Nissan Titan $26-39,000, GMC Sierra 1500 $19-44,000, GMC Sierra Hybrid $38-47,000, Honda Ridgeline $28-37,000, Ford F150 $22-39,000. 2010 model year – Toyota Tundra $23-42,000 and Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid $38-47,000.

Good News:

Solid ride, powerful HEMI gas engine,

Bad News:

Only fair fuel economy,

Standard Equipment:

4.7 liter 310 hp V8 engine, 5-speed automatic transmission, front and side curtain air bags, stability control, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, sentry key and theft deterrent system, HD engine cooling, cruise control, remote keyless entry, power windows and locks, tire pressure monitor, locking tailgate, air conditioning, stereo with in dash CD/MP3 player, Sirius satellite radio, 40/20/40 split bench seat and rear fold down with under seat storage, rear power sliding window, tilt steering column, trip computer and info center, temp and compass gauges, 17” aluminum wheels, fold away power heated mirrors.

Options: 5.7 liter 390 hp V8 HEMI engine, $1,310; Clothe bucket seats $925, preferred package, 20” aluminum wheels, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, dual exhaust, overhead console, exterior mirrors with supplemental signals and courtesy lights, rear dome light, fog lights. $2,250.

Gas Stats:

$2.90/ Gal avg. August 31, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

14 City and 20 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $31,880 and with options $37,845.

2009 Dodge Sprinter 2500 Wagon Passenger Van (772)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2009 Dodge Sprinter 2500 Wagon Passenger Van. What a lot of attention this vehicle commands. Size makes a big impression but more than that it has more applications than I imagined. Several asked if it was available in a motor home / RV configuration and the answer is no – not an option from Dodge. But conversions are pretty exciting. Take a look at this link for a You Tube video of an amazing RV application. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4ZLF7NVoe4. You can also go to www.colonialairstream.com for more information.

Those who asked commented that their 40 foot outfits are simply too cumbersome to maneuver – especially for use by only two people. A modified Sprinter is a perfect application for those shorter get-a-ways.

As configured, this model seats 12 and is like a small bus that you can stand up in.

Coincidentally my neighbor was hosting a large party for a class reunion and had a need to shuttle folks from a parking area to the party. This was a hit and a real convenience for all. It was easy to maneuver and the roof air and lighting was great for the untimely heat wave.

These vehicles are very popular in Europe and becoming popular in the US as well. They are getting very attractive and although they are easy to drive and smooth on the highway it becomes a liability when it comes to parking.

General Info:

Parts –  n/a

Assembly – Germany

Class:  – Heavy duty.

Cars: – Caliber, Challenger, Charger, Dakota, Durango, Durango Hybrid, Grand Caravan, Journey, Magnum, Nitro, Ram 15-25-3500, Sprinter, Sprinter Wagon & Viper.

Handling & Performance:

The turbo diesel is plenty powerful for the application. On the open highway it will keep up with traffic in any condition. But as noted above when on the streets you will have to be constantly aware of the overhead clearance. Thus its application is more leaning to commercial use.

Fuel economy for this diesel is better than Ford or Chevrolet by 2-5 mpg with its Turbo V6 versus the V8 power of the others. The V6 is more than adequate even with the size difference.

Styling:

Streamlined appearance is really so much better than earlier models so it appeals to more people and more applications. It was unattractive in the earlier model years.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

$47,000 with basic stuff without roof air and special paint and tricked out with most all options it will cost about $63,000.

Conveniences and comfort:

Comfortable bus like with lots of storage. It has a smooth stable feel. Tall profile requires more care of overhead clearance areas. Thus most inside parking will be very limited.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you have a need to carry lots of folks and gear this is an option to look at. The competition is more conventional with larger displacement V8 engines but the Turbo Diesel is better overall. The others seat the same number of people with less cargo area and less head room. Sprinter is more unique and more commercial in size and application. There are only two others in this class so you can easily find the one that fits your need best.

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Sprinter Wagon $42-47,000, Ford E Series Wagon $28-36,000, Chevrolet Express $28-34,000, GMC Savana  $28-34,000.

Good News:

Tall walk in passenger comfort, nice styling, powerful Turbo Diesel.

Bad News:

Tall profile that limits parking options that means you don’t park in underground facilities.

Standard Equipment:

3.0 liter V6 Turbo Diesel engine, 5-speed automatic transmission, 4-wheel antilock brake, adaptive electronic stability program, front stabilizer bar, traction control, power rack and pinion steering, keyless entry, power locks, power windows, emergency exit window, electric powered auxiliary heater, 25 gal fuel tank, climate control air conditioning, audio with CD player, 1st and 2nd row 3 passenger bench seats, 3rd row 4 passenger bench seat, tire pressure monitor.

Optional equipment:

Silver metallic paint is $1,185 and other options are available such as roof air and special interior lighting, added side airbags, cold climate special heating, increased insulation etc than will bring the total price up as high as $63,000.

Gas Stats:

$2.75/ Gal avg. August 8, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

18 City and 20 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $47,220.